Freed

Written by fe Bureaus | Mumbai, New Delhi | Updated: Nov 30 2008, 09:43am hrs
Terror2
Even as security forces killed the last terrorist at Taj hotel on Saturday morning, bringing to an end the 62-hour-long siege that killed 195 people, including 22 foreigners and 14 brave heart policemen and NSG commandoes, high-level talks were on in the Capital to find out a solution to the menace called terrorism

Nearly 62 hours after a group of 10 terrorists, trained with military precision and planning, struck at various locations in Mumbai on Wednesday night, the crisis was finally over on Saturday. Of the 10 terrorists, who had landed in Indias commercial capital through the sea route and were believed to have gained expertise in marine offensive, nine were killed by security forces and one was held and is currently under the interrogation by the Mumbai Police. The Maharashtra government revealed that terrorists had plans to kill at least 5,000 people.

At least 195 people, including 22 foreign nationals, killed and 295 injured in the terror attacks. NSG commandos, who believed that a lone terrorist was holding out at the Taj hotel, the site of the terrorists final stand, since Friday, launched a final assault in the early hours on Saturday and killed three terrorists to secure the old heritage area of the hotel opposite the Gateway of India.

In the afternoon, NSG personnel, who were assisted by the Army, Navy and the Mumbai Police, carried out a series of controlled explosions inside the hotel to defuse explosives they came across as they combed through the 565 rooms of the Victorian structure. JK Dutt, director-general of NSG, told reporters that NSG had killed three gunmen and were busy carrying out room-by-room search. The hotel was freed from the terrorists by Saturday morning. Minutes earlier, a firewhich Dutt said had been set by the terrorists as a diversionary tacticswept through the ground floor of the 105-year-old building and coincided with an end to rifle fire. It was quickly brought under control. Two boxes each containing 8 kg of RDX found near Taj, state home minister RR Patil informed. The NSG personnel had already completed operations at the Oberoi-Trident and Nariman House on Friday.

All operations are over. The NSG has formally reported that the operations are complete and now Taj, Oberoi and Nariman House are being sanitised. There are no more terrorists now in Mumbai. All have been liquidated or captured alive, ML Kumawat, special secretary in the Union home ministry told reporters in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, amid reports that one of the terrorists worked as a chef in its hotel, Tata-owned Taj Group clarified that there was no indication that any of its employees was involved in the attack. We are extending our full cooperation to the investigating authorities. We have had no indications from them that any employee or contractual staff of the hotel have been involved as part of this terrorist attack as is being reported by some media outlets, The Indian Hotels Company Ltd CEO and MD Raymond Bickson said in a statement. Bickson, along with vice-chairman of the company Krishna Kumar, accompanied group Chairman Ratan Tata to the devastated heritage hotel, immediately after NSG commandos gunned downed three terrorists, who were holed up in the hotel since Wednesday. Sources estimated that the loss at the iconic structure of Taj Mahal Hotel would be around Rs 50 crore.

Black streaks of soot stained the gray bricks, white balconies and red-tiled roofs of the hotels facade. The ground floor was gutted, the wood-panelled walls blackened and cracked by explosions and fire. Wine glasses and soup bowls were scattered on the floor, a charred gilt chandelier broken in pieces on a carpet and shattered glass strewn throughout the Tajs boutique shops.

Meanwhile, Patil told reporters that group of terrorists arrived in Mumbai on November 26, the day of the terror attacks. The terrorists were receiving instructions from Pakistan and they had made calls from the Taj Hotel to Pakistan. We have enough proof that they called Pakistan while carrying out the attack. We have enough proof regarding that. All phone calls made by them had been tapped, he noted.

In a related development, the state Cabinet held an emergency meeting on Saturday and decided to provide government job to one member each of slain policemens family. Chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who chaired the meeting and later left for New Delhi to participate in the Congress Working Committee meeting, said next of kin of policemen killed in terror attack to get Rs 25 lakh each. As reported by FE, the state would set up a force on lines of NSG to tackle terrorism.